While Batman has had various stories aimed at a more adult audience over the years, DC Comics almost licensed the Dark Knight specifically for the infamous 1970s adult comics magazine. Yes, indeed.
It was about Star*Reach magazine, an independent black-and-white anthology publication created by Mike Friedrich in 1974. It featured works by such popular artists as Jim Starlin, Howard Chaikin and Walt Simonson, and the name acted as something of a bridge. Between the underground comics of R. Crumb and Harvey Pekar and the mainstream publications of Marvel and DC. Star*Reach was also free from the restrictions of the Comics Code, which made its adult-only content a precursor to adult magazines such as Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated. It had eighteen issues between 1974 and 1979 before it was shut down, but most surprisingly, the closure means the cancellation of future Star issues. * Reach, which included publishing a Batman story… without direct involvement of DC Comics.
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The first mention of this legendary Batman story appeared in The Comic Reader #173 for October 1979. Discussing Star*Reach’s plans for the future, the article promised: “(Star*Reach) #20 will be something special: Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers will team up. -up to present a brand new Batman story,” which Englehart continues to announce will be the “ultimate Batman.” Englehart and Rogers had previously made a brief but memorable issue of detective comics, in which they introduced elements such as Silver St. Cloud’s love interest, an updated Deadshot and the famous Joker story “Laughing Fish”. The fact that DC was willing to license Batman to an independent publication speaks to the significance of this pair in the Batman story.
Originally scheduled for release in the summer of 1980, the story was never published. According to an interview with CBR, Englehart cites two reasons why the story did not take place: DC wanted the story to appear in color, and wanted no more than ten thousand copies to be printed. Unable to make a deal, Englehart and Rogers never got to work, and Star*Reach closed shortly after. It’s hard not to wonder what impact this story might have had, like the later works “The Guardians” and “The Return of the Dark Knight.” Little is known about what this story was supposed to be about, and Englehart offers only vague details:
“[We] wanted the climax to be on top of the airship, the bat’s cape fluttering in the wind. Ahead were Bruce, Silver and a group of high society representatives crossing the Atlantic on a modern excursion.”
Free from any content restrictions from the prohibitive comics Code, Englehart and Rogers were free to explore the psychology of Bruce Wayne and Batman in a way they had never been able to in the monthly Batman comics of the time. This is exactly what happened six years later, when Frank Miller created the cult “The Return of the Dark Knight”, which was partly influenced by the brief work of Englehart and Rogers on “Detective Comics”. If the pair had been given the same creative freedom Miller enjoyed in his Batman story, they could have had their own Dark Knight-level success that would have changed the industry.
Although Englehart and Rogers never managed to publish their Star*Reach story, the pair reunited almost thirty years later for Batman: The Dark Detective, finally getting the chance to put a good finishing stone on their previous issue.